Istanbul court sends two Turkish columnists to jail

ISTANBUL (AA) – A court in Istanbul on Thursday sentenced two columnists from the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet to two years in prison for inciting hatred and public enmity by publishing Charlie Hebdo’s controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoon.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor among many others had filed criminal complaints in January 2015 against Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya for using in their columns the “insulting” cartoon of Prophet Muhammad, which was on the cover of the first post-attack issue of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.

A gun attack on the French magazine’s offices on Jan. 7, 2015, had left 12 people dead.

Istanbul’s Second Criminal Court found Karan and Cetinkaya guilty of “inciting hatred and public enmity via media,” and sentenced them to two years in prison each, while it acquitted them of charges of “publicly insulting religious values adopted by some parts of the community.”

Thursday’s hearing was the fifth hearing in the case with 1,280 complainants, including Turkish president’s children Bilal and Sumeyye Erdogan, as well as Esra Albayrak, and her husband, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu back then had slammed the Turkish paper for publishing the caricature, in which, Prophet Muhammad, can be seen dressed in white shedding a tear and holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, below the headline “All is forgiven.”

Davutoglu had said that freedom of press did not mean freedom to insult, especially if it was directed against the prophet.